Germany Expels Top US Intelligence Official, Says It Will (Officially) Spy Back On US And UK

from the no-more-no-spy dept

Techdirt has been following the complicated German reaction to Edward Snowden's revelations about US and UK surveillance of people in that country, whether or not in high places, for some while now. Although the German public has been deeply shocked by the leaks, the German government has been keen to preserve good relations with the US. But the revelation that there was not just one but probably two double agents working for the US within the German secret services has taken the country's unhappiness with its ally up a notch, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel has finally reacted with a classic diplomatic punishment, reported here by the Guardian:

The German government has asked the top representative of America's secret services in Germany to leave the country. Members of the government's supervisory panel announced the measure at a press conference in Berlin this afternoon.

Clemens Binninger, a member of Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats, who chairs the committee that oversees the intelligence services, explained that the move came in response to America's "failure to cooperate on resolving various allegations, starting with the NSA and up to the latest incidents".
This comes just after the Independent newspaper carried the following story about another significant German response to US (and UK) spying:
Chancellor Angela Merkel's government is planning to scrap a no-spy agreement Germany has held with Britain and the United States since 1945 in response to an embarrassing US-German intelligence service scandal which has deeply soured relations between Berlin and Washington.

The unprecedented change to Berlin's counter-espionage policy was announced by Ms Merkel’s Interior Minister, Thomas de Maizière. He said that Berlin wanted "360-degree surveillance" of all intelligence-gathering operations in Germany.

...

Mr de Maizière told Bild that he was now not ruling out permanent German counter-espionage surveillance of US, British and French intelligence operations. His remarks were echoed by Stephan Mayer, a domestic security spokesman for Ms Merkel’s ruling Christian Democrats. “We must focus more strongly on our so-called allies,” he said.
It may well be that some "unofficial" German spying on the US had been going on until now, but the fact that Angela Merkel's interior minister has made an official statement of his country's intent to spy on the US, UK and France is a clear signal of her displeasure with the surveillance activities of those "so-called" allies. Given Germany's rapidly-escalating response here, an interesting question is: What will it do if/when the next big spying scandal breaks?

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Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    That One Guy (profile), Jul 10th, 2014 @ 12:59pm

    Can't wait for the response

    Watching the US and UK pretend that what they were/are doing is fine and nothing to get worked up about, but Germany spying is just shy of the end of the world and must be stopped at all costs... should be good.

     

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  2.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Jul 10th, 2014 @ 1:11pm

    wat?

    Chancellor Angela Merkel's government is planning to scrap a no-spy agreement...

    That agreement was already scrapped, and not by Merkel.

     

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  3.  
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    David, Jul 10th, 2014 @ 1:24pm

    Wrong headline

    Germany did not "expel" the CIA official. They asked him to leave. If he says "no", there is nothing Germany can do.

    They should have asked to have the occupation statutes lifted when reuniting with East Germany. As it stands, they are still occupied by the allied forces.

    Of course, it's ironic that throwing out the U.S., U.K., and French military and associated personell from the country would these days constitute a solid step away from fascism.

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 10th, 2014 @ 1:26pm

    It makes sense now, why Obama refused to enter into a 'No Spying' pact with Merkel. He must have known about all the double agents the US had planted around Germany.

    I can't see Merkel being too strict with Obama. She seems to view him as vital to her countries success. I haven't quite figured out why she feels that way. Perhaps she values US military protection?

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 10th, 2014 @ 1:32pm

    Re:

    The EU saves a lot of money because of that US military protection.
    Obviously they will tolerate a few minor fuckups, noone wants to spend money when they dont have to and they will just put on a happy face

     

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  6.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Jul 10th, 2014 @ 1:36pm

    Re: Wrong headline

    Nothing 'officially' perhaps, however I imagine if he doesn't leave there's still plenty they could do to make him want to leave on his own, all sorts of little minor, 'completely accidental' inconveniences that could start popping up.

    However, I imagine he'd leave anyway, once a double-agent's been exposed, they become pretty useless at their job, so keeping him there would be little more than petty aggravation towards the german government, which isn't very smart diplomatically speaking.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 10th, 2014 @ 1:37pm

    I can not but help wonder if those countries against the US do not see this as a method to get back in the headlines following the same theme as Merkel. How long before the other neutral countries and even some of the allies see things the same way?

    This NSA spying business got totally out of hand. I believe we will have a lot more mileage on this before it gets better and more limited in scope.

    What will also be of interest is how US companies will suffer in Germany as a result. This is going to make a whole bunch of folks more unhappy with the US's spying addiction.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 10th, 2014 @ 1:51pm

    Re:

    I would imagine what the deal is, is Germany is pissed it can't get into the database and is making a play to either make it more difficult to work in their country for the US or the US can make the choice of giving them more access. It's not like Germany doesn't have it's own intelligence abilities but more like they are limited in what they can do in their own country.

    When the financial and travel data stops arriving in the US, I would imagine the US will pay more attention.

     

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  9.  
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    David, Jul 10th, 2014 @ 1:57pm

    Re: Re: Wrong headline

    You are confused. They are not asking the double agents to leave but are rather prosecuting them.

    Whom they ask to leave is the CIA top representative in Germany.

     

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  10.  
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    Seegras (profile), Jul 10th, 2014 @ 2:01pm

    Tame

    This is actually very tame.

    I'd have thrown out quite a lot more US operations when Snowdens revelations first came to light. And immediately terminated any treaties that allow data to flow to the US (like the airplane passenger data treaty). So this is late and tame.

    And I'd have started criminal proceedings against my own secret service (the BND) in the first place: suspicion of conspiring to spy on german citizens for a foreign power.

    (Please note the fine distinction of espionage against "citizens" from espionage against "governments". Secret services are supposed to spy on foreign governments. But they're not supposed to spy on ordinary citizens. Even less their OWN citizens).

     

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  11.  
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    David, Jul 10th, 2014 @ 2:06pm

    Re: Re:

    It's not like Germany doesn't have it's own intelligence abilities but more like they are limited in what they can do in their own country.

    That's sort of a given when you have a constitutional republic.

    The U.S. purports to have one as well, but that's sort of similar to somebody calling himself a vegetarian since he only eats meat from animals for which death is a release from suffering.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 10th, 2014 @ 2:22pm

    Re: Tame


    (Please note the fine distinction of espionage against "citizens" from espionage against "governments". Secret services are supposed to spy on foreign governments. But they're not supposed to spy on ordinary citizens. Even less their OWN citizens).


    Ah! Now I understand why the NSA was reigned in and Clapper and his cohorts have been jailed.

     

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  13.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Jul 10th, 2014 @ 3:00pm

    Re: Re: Re: Wrong headline

    Ah, you're right, my mistake.

     

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  14.  
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    RonKaminsky (profile), Jul 10th, 2014 @ 5:28pm

    Finally, some real transparency...

    Good, maybe they can find out a bit more "About UK's Role In CIA Renditions" so that Edvard SchneeHöhle can subsequently leak it out to us...

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 10th, 2014 @ 6:37pm

    the USA is getting to be less and less credible and more and more disliked and distrusted. what is such a shame is that other countries, particularly the UK are being taken down along with the USA. the UK government would do well to steer away from what it's doing at the moment, because there is going to be some serious shit dished out before long!!

     

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  16. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 10th, 2014 @ 8:20pm

    Re: Wrong headline

    Glyn Moody qualifies to work for NYT. Another dumb media whore. Cannot distinct between "asked" and "expelled". Let alone diplomacy issues.

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 10th, 2014 @ 10:55pm

    Re: Re: Wrong headline

    Is it really not being expelled, though? I mean, this is diplomacy, where it takes ten months to agree on what color the negotiated treaty's cover is.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 10th, 2014 @ 10:58pm

    If they're serious....

    We'd be seeing sanctions proposals. They don't care about their spook drones or anyone else for that matter. Now if they stared getting hit with fiscal sanctions or hell, even proposals for the whole EU against them then it will affect their masters. Shit will have gotten real.

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 11th, 2014 @ 12:00am

    Re: Re:

    It is not a given that BND is much better covered in legislation than US intelligence. Very few countries have a better protection. I can only think of Norway where things are under more open scrutiny. That their neighbors in Sweden, Denmark and UK all are worse than US in this regard, makes it all the more impressive.

     

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  20.  
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    DaveHowe (profile), Jul 11th, 2014 @ 1:52am

    Re: Wrong headline

    Sort of. In practice, they can't force him to leave the embassy grounds, but *can* revoke his diplomatic credentials (if any) and order him to leave the country.

    That means if he takes one step outside the embassy gates, he can be seized and escorted to the nearest airport (but yeah, he can sit in the embassy as long as he wants)

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Some German, Jul 11th, 2014 @ 2:02am

    Re: Wrong headline

    You're right that Germany didn't expell him, "we" only strongly suggested he leaves on his own accord. But your wrong that there is nothing we could do if he says no: We could then simply go ahead actually expell him.

    You're also wrong on the occupational status, Germany has regained full sovereignty. The occupation status ended in '55, and any special rights retained dissipated in '91 after the reunification. (Zwei+Vier Vertrag)

    But it is nice to see that the German Government is finally forced to react on the violations of German law within it's own boarders. Personally I would go much further and threaten to cut (all) diplomatic ties (Especially the use of the Ramstein airforce base could hurt the US quite a bit, although I don't no the basis of the treaty so I have no idea how fast it could be implemented) until the US signs a NoSpy treaty.

    I'm all for good relations with the US for various reasons (I myself, for example, am studying there) but for that there has to be equal treatment, not just empty words.

     

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  22.  
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    Ninja (profile), Jul 11th, 2014 @ 4:44am

    Given Germany's rapidly-escalating response here, an interesting question is: What will it do if/when the next big spying scandal breaks?

    That's a good question. Because it's a matter of when it will break, not if. The US (and its lapdog, the UK) seemingly couldn't care less. Whould they go as far as to withdraw from the alliance? The situation could deteriorate quite fast. When you start making your friends angry it's time to review your actions...

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Nikki Norton, Jul 11th, 2014 @ 9:23am

    Germany

    I wonder if there is any information on Americans that were spied on while visiting Germany? I wonder if there is any way to obtain that information?

     

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  24.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Jul 11th, 2014 @ 10:38am

    Re: Re: Wrong headline

    Not sure what good you think another 'NoSpy' treaty would do Germany, given the US pretty blatantly already broke the current one.

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 11th, 2014 @ 11:31pm

    Re:

    She's starting to see that the US doesn't give a crap about German security or protection and views most EU countries as enemies.

    Therefore the EU itself is starting to look towards defending itself without US intervention, which could eventually lead to the ending of US bases across the EU as leases expire.

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 11th, 2014 @ 11:34pm

    Re:

    The UK has it's own worries at the moment what with 300+ MPs (some in the House of Lords) being investigated on child molestation charges, upto and including the current Prime Minister who may be implicated in a direct cover-up.

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    David, Jul 11th, 2014 @ 11:42pm

    Re: Re: Wrong headline

    Regarding occupational status: yes, things are more complex, see this link. Basically, the U.S. was unhappy with what the Soviet Union did with its occupational status and worked on having it officially lifted in 1955. However, as a condition for "formally" lifting that state, they entered into secret treaties granting them most of the previous powers back.

    Those treaties have never been cancelled. So yes, it's not "occupational status" but rather "son of occupational status", and the USSR is no longer in the game.

     

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  28.  
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    Eldakka (profile), Jul 14th, 2014 @ 8:54pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    It is not a given that BND is much better covered in legislation than US intelligence. Very few countries have a better protection.


    Level of protection provided by the constitution and/or legislation means nothing when everyone in power (courts, legislature, executive, even the press in many instances) conspire to keep any breaches (or potential breaches) from ever reaching the light of day.

    Press keep it secret.
    Executive keep it secret.
    Legislature keep it secret.
    Courts keep it secret.

    What can't be kept secret is either covered up by the press, legislated around by the legislature, pardoned by the executive, dismissed by the courts.

     

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  29.  
    identicon
    Irfan, Sep 28th, 2014 @ 2:12am

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    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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